|A SIGN OF THE TIMES, ABSENCE OF CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL NORMS?|
NAZI SALUTE - Photo of a basic training class at the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows participants doing a Nazi salute.
UPDATE 12/31/2019 - Gov. Jim Justice announced today in a press release that he has received and reviewed the official report completed by the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety related to the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Academy Class 18 and has approved the recommendations submitted by DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy.
“I have reviewed the factual information regarding this incident that was provided by Secretary Sandy, and have approved all of his recommendations,” Gov. Justice said. “I expressed my thanks to him and the entire Department for quickly getting this report done.
The following are the recommendations:
1) Termination of one additional Academy staff member who failed to report the content of the class photograph, the substance of conversations with instructor Byrd regarding the practice and the photograph, and also her knowledge of the ongoing conduct, thereby contributing to the negative perception and indelible harm that has resulted from the incident. This brings the total number of Academy staff terminations to three at this point in time.
2) Suspension without pay for four Academy Instructors who are currently known tto have seen the photograph and failed to report its content, or to have witnessed Instructor Byrd and her class participating in this conduct and while making attempts to stop it, failed to take the necessary steps to report the conduct and to ensue that it was, in fact, no longer occurring, thereby contributing to the negative perception and indelible harm that has resulted from the incident.
3) I am further recommending the termination of all cadets participating in the open-handed salute and the closed fist salute in the class photograph. As the Executive Summary also reflects, some other cadets state variously that they were aware of the connotations associated with the gesture, that they were uncomfortable with the practice, that they did not participate in its use during class, and/or that they only followed what they perceived to be an order from Instructor Byrd to do the “Hail Byrd for the photograph because they feared they would not graduate, or would be disciplined for failure to follow the order of a superior. Nonetheless, their conduct, without question, has also resulted in the far-reaching and harmful perceptions that are the antithesis of the values we strive to attain. The inevitable consequence of the conduct has not only damaged the reputation of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, but also negatively impacts morale across the workforce.
UPDATE Nov. 6, 2019 - Three individuals have been fired and 34 remain suspended without pay, and the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety and its Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation work to complete the investigation into a photo of a training class, Secretary Jeff Sandy said Friday.
The three terminations are of two correctional academy trainers and one of the Basic Training Class #18 cadets in the photo. The remaining trainees in the photo remain suspended without pay, via DCR policy that does allow them to apply any earned annual leave during such a suspension.
Investigators have conducted more than 50 interviews at the Glenville academy and other facilities. Sandy, DCR Commissioner Betsy Jividen and their leadership teams have been reviewing the statements and other evidence throughout the investigation, with Sandy estimating that the investigation is nearing completion.
Sandy has also cautioned that until the investigation is complete, and because of personnel rules and protections outlined in West Virginia’s civil service system, the release of specifics such as the names and disciplinary status of the individuals in the photo as well as an unredacted version of it remains pending.
“We are committed to a full and complete investigation that we will present to Governor Justice and to the public once it is finished,” Sandy said. “As terrible as this incident has been, it is critically important that we go by the book to arrive at the whole truth of what occurred and why.”
A number of West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees are suspended and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is calling for some terminations after a photo surfaced that shows more than 30 participants in a basic training class doing a Nazi salute.
The cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety has sent a letter to all employees of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation condemning the photo. The class was conducted Oct. 21 through Nov. 27.
The photo was taken to celebrate the cadets graduating from their five-week training course in Glenville. To make matters worse, the picture was printed, copied and placed in the graduation packets of each correctional officer.
Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for DMAPS, sent the letter on Wednesday titled "Conduct Unbecoming by Members of DCR" and addressed it to all employees.
"I have seen the photo of Basic Training Class Number 18. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms," Sandy wrote. "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate."
Sandy went on to say the photo undermines the high standards that have been set for the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
"It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees," Sandy's letter said.
The letter does not specifically describe what the photo is of, who exactly is in it, or when or how it was discovered.
"In the meantime, Commissioner Jividen has directed that all copies be destroyed, sent to this office, or otherwise taken out of circulation to keep its harm from spreading," Sandy said.
Betsy Jividen serves as commissioner of the state Division of Corrections.
Sandy went on to write that faith and community leaders were informed of the incident and have been asked for their help to address it "effectively," including with recommended changes or additions to their training program.
The governor has been briefed on the photo and released a statement just before noon on Thursday condemning the photo.